Habitat and distribution: The coral tooth fungus (Hericium coralloides), is common throughout the global temperate zone and less
frequent in the tropics (EOL.org). It grows on rotting hardwood (Arora, 1976), and produces fruiting bodies from late summer to fall (Kuo & Methven, 2014). I found this specimen on a fallen maple log in early October in the Baker woodlot on the MSU campus.
Taxonomic placement: H. coralloides (Basidiomycota, Agaricomycotina, Russulales, Hericiaceae) (Mycobank.org) was first described by Scopoli in 1772 as Hydnum coralloides, and renamed as Hericium coralloides by Persoon in 1794. This species is also synonymous with Hydnum coralloideum H. clathroides, H. laciniatum, H. ramosum, H. caput-ursi, H. aciculare, H. novae-zelandiae, Medusina coralloides, Merisma coralloides, Friestes coralloides, Manina coralloides, Clavaris madreporaeformis, Hericium reichii, and Dryodon aciculare (Mycobank.org).
Fruiting body: Hericium coralloides is easily spotted because its fruiting body stands out white against the substrate, which is usually darker. It bears distinct, long (~ 1cm) teeth hanging downwards from irregularly-shaped fruiting bodies that do not have a distinguishable cap. They can be easily mistaken for which is also white and does not have a cap, but is distinguishable because the teeth of H. coralloides originate from branched structures. This gives the fruiting body an overall clumpy appearance. H erinaceus does not have branches, and therefore looks more smoothly cohesive, covered in slightly longer teeth (1-6 cm) (Kuo & Methven, 2014).
Microscopic features: Though I could not find any on this specimen, the spores of H. coralloides are small (~4 x 4 µm), spherical or nearly so, amyloid, and smooth or very finely textured (Kuo & Methven 2014).
Ecology and relevance to society: H. coralloides is attractive to forest scientists because it recycles carbon and other nutrients by decomposing dead hardwood logs and branches (Crockatt et al. 2008; Boddy et al., 2011). They are also economically important because they are edible (Arora 1976; Ko et al. 2004; Zou et al., 2012) and important to the mushroom cultivation industry because they can be sold as home mushroom-growing kits. The species also has used medicinally in some traditions and has been the subject of recent research due to its possibly utility in neurological regeneration (Pallua et al., 2012; Wittstein et al., 2016).
Arora, D. 1976. Mushrooms Demystified: a comprehensive guide to the fleshy fungi. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA.
Boddy, L., M.E. Crochatt, and A.M. Ainsworth. 2011. Ecology of Hericium cirrhatum, H. coralloides and H. erinaceus in the UK. Fingal Ecology. 4(2):163-173.
Crockatt, M.E., G.I. Pierce, R.A. Camden, P.M. Newell, and L. Boddy. Homokaryons are more combative than heterokaryons of Hericium coralloides. 2008. Fungal Ecology 1(1): 40-48.
EOL: Hericium coralloides Coral tooth. http://www.eol.org/pages/133420/maps. Accessed November 21, 2016.
Hericium coralloides. Mycobank.org. Accessed November 21, 2016.
Ko, H.G., H.G. Park, S.H. Park, C.W. Choi, S.H. Kim, and W.M. Park. 2005. Comparative study of mycelial growth and basidiomata formation in seven different species of the edible mushroom genus Hericium. Bioresource Technology 96(13) 1439-1444.
Kuo, M., and A.S. Methven. 2014. Mushrooms of the Midwest. University of Illinois Press: Urbana, Chicago, Springfield.
Pallua, J.D., W. Recheis. R. Pӧder, K. Pfaller, C. Pezzei, H. Hahn, V. Huck-Pezzei, L.K. Bittner, G. Schaefer, E. Steiner, G. Andre, S. Hutwimmer, S. Felber, A.K. Pallua, A.F. Pallua, G.K. Bonn, and C.W. Huck. 2012. Morphological and tissue characterization of the medicianla fungus Hericium coralloides by a structural and molecular imaging platform. Analyst. 137:1584-1595.
Persoon, C.H. 1794. Neuer Versuch einer systematischen Eintheilung der Schwämme. Neues Magazin für die Botanik. 1:63-80.
Scopoli. 1772. Flora carniolica 2:472.
Wittstein, K., M. Rascher, Z. Rupcic, E. Lӧwen, B. Winter, R.W. Kӧster, and M. Stadler. 2016. Corallocins, A-C, nerve growth and brain-derived neurotrophic factor inducing metabolites from the mushroom Hericium coralloides. Journal of Natural Products 79(9) 2264-2269.
Zou, Y., H. Wang, T. Ng, C. Huang, and J. Zhang. 2012. Purification and characterization of a novel laccase from the edible mushroom Hericium coralloides. The Journal of Microbiology 50(1): 72-184.108.40.206